Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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September 14, 2018
- Khan al-Ahmar Verdict Is A Greenlight for East Jerusalem Settlement Schemes
- New Outpost Established in the Jordan Valley
- U.S. Ambassador: We Have Never Challenged an Israeli Settlement Plan
- Dismantling the Notion that Israel & the WZO Acted “In Good Faith” in Recent Outpost Case
- Aryeh King on the New East Jerusalem Settlement: Beit Hanina Will Begin to “Judaize”
- New Polling: Palestinians View Two-State Solution as Linked to Settlement Expansion
- Bonus Reads
Last week, the Israeli High Court lifted an order preventing the Israeli government from forcibly removing residents from the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin community and demolishing the village in the E-1 area, east of Jerusalem. Looking at the implications of the ruling, Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann, founder of the Terrestrial Jerusalem, warns:
“the verdict gives a green light for the removal of Khan al-Ahmar, and provides a basis for removal of other Palestinian villages located on West Banks lands coveted by settlers and their allies…next in line are other Bedouin communities in that area, including Jabel Al Baba, as well as Susiya (in the southern Hebron hills), and Palestinian communities in areas targeted by the settlers in East Jerusalem (like Sheikh Jarrah and Batan al Hawa in Silwan – for recent developments see here).”
Seidemann further notes:
“the evacuation of Khan El Ahmar is not only about the tragic fate of the residents themselves…As we [Terrestrial Jerusalem] underlined several times in the past, the stubbornness, not to say the obsession, of the government of Israel with Khan Al Ahmar is mostly due to its location close to E1, within what is viewed by Israeli authorities as the ‘Maale Adumim bloc,’ extending deep into the West Bank to include the settlement of Kfar Adumim. The Court’s green light for the displacement of Khan al-Ahmar, alongside the start of the national electoral campaign, raises the risk that Prime Minister Netanyahu – always looking for a way to score points with the right and far-right – will decide to pursue push ahead with E-1 (the other grand scheme available in East Jerusalem is Givat Hamatos; the risk that he will move on that scheme is also serious).”
When asked about the Khan al-Ahmar case, U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert acknowledged that the U.S.has been tracking the case but deferred to Israeli judicial proceedings on the matter, saying that the U.S. understanding is that “all appeals have been exhausted” and parroting the Israeli government talking point arguing that, “Israel is offering land [to the Bedouin], which includes access to water, electric, infrastructure, schools, and necessary things of that sort to the incoming residents.” This talking point glosses over the patent illegality – under international law – of forcibly transferring the Bedouin. It also glosses over the actual details of the very problematic “offer” Israel is making to the Bedouin – i.e., a location adjacent to a garbage dump or a wastewater facility.
Ma’an News reports that settlers have set up a new unauthorized outpost on Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley, between the Palestinian village of Tubas and the Israeli settlement of Shadmot Mechola. Previously a single tent established at the site in May 2018, settlers significantly expanded the outpost, raised Israeli flags over the new dwellings, and primed the site for permanent residences.
According to reports, the outpost prevents Palestinians residents from Tubas, an agricultural center, from accessing their privately owned land – land that Palestinians have long used to herd sheep.
As FMEP has previously reported, Israel has effectively annexed 85% of land in the Jordan Valley, through ongoing settlement building and the declaration of “closed military zones” on vast swaths of farmland. A recent report by B’Tselem documents how Israeli settlers were allowed to establish two new outposts in the Jordan Valley in 2017. Israel has also undertaken alarming efforts to evict Palestinians from their land in the Jordan Valley, particularly Palestinian communities that have the misfortune of being located near to an Israeli settlement. Simultaneously, Israel has approved new settlement plans in the Jordan Valley and has advanced plans to retroactively legalize outposts in the Jordan Valley.
In a new interview, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that Israel “shouldn’t have to ask permission from the U.S.” to expand settlements in the West Bank and confirmed what settlement watchers have long believed: that the Trump Administration never challenged an Israeli construction plan in the West Bank. The full interview was published in the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is owned by U.S. settlement financier, Netanyahu supporter and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson.
Friedman also explained, for the first time publicly, the process by which Israel consults with the U.S. before advancing settlement plans. According to Friedman, prior to announcing settlement advancements, the Netanyahu government presents the plans to the U.S., which then offers commentary on the plans. Friedman said:
“We don’t tell Israel what to do and what not to do. It’s a sovereign country and they have to make those decisions. But we do have an open relationship and a good faith relationship, we talk about these plans and we do so from the perspective that the president expressed early on in his presidency – that settlements are not an obstacle to peace but if unrestrained settlement expansion continues, mathematically speaking, there will be much greater limits on territory that could be given to Palestinians. We never tell them, ‘You must pull this out.’ If we have an issue with something we say, ‘Do you really need to go this far? Can you build closer in to the existing property lines?’”
Since Trump took office almost two years ago, only a single report has surfaced suggesting Trump Administration intervened to stop an Israeli plan related to settlements. In that case, the U.S. reportedly took a position opposing [at that specific time] legislation seeking to annex settlements. The bill was tabled by the Netanyahu government, with Netanyahu citing White House concerns when explaining to his coalition partners his decision to table the bill. At the time, the White House responded, “It’s fair to say that the U.S. is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions.”
Hagit Ofran, the Director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch program, wrote a blistering takedown of the Jerusalem District Court’s ruling that held that the State of Israel and the World Zionist Organization acted “in good faith” when giving privately owned Palestinian land to settlers, who built the Mitzpe Kramim outpost on the land in question. That ruling, as FMEP previously explained, is a monumental new legal precedent that – if allowed to stand – will open the door for retroactive “legalization” of many more outposts, effectively green-lighting a new series of land grabs – now extending to land that even Israel recognizes is privately owned by Palestinian – for the sake of settlements.
“One can believe that the outpost settlers really thought that the land was not privately owned by Palestinians. But it is difficult to attribute ‘total innocence and honesty’ to anyone who builds without permits in an illegal outpost. Had the settlers bothered to ask for a permit, the Civil Administration would have immediately discovered that this was private land, and they would have been saved from stealing. (It is reasonable to assume that the government would not have approved the establishment of the outpost because at least until the establishment of the Netanyahu governments, the official policy was that no new settlements would be established.). But the court did not rule on the good faith of the settlers. The discussion dealt with the good faith of those who gave them the land, i.e. the state and the Settlement Division.”
As FMEP reported last week, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee has approved plans for a new settlement in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem. New reporting by Al-Monitor provides more evidence of the ideologically driven strategy at play:
“[Rabbi Aryeh] King, a [Jerusalem] city council member and activist who has been buying up Palestinian land for Jews, pledged that Arab Beit Hanina ‘would begin to Judaize, and hopefully soon become a neighborhood with a firm Jewish majority as befits the capital of the Jewish people.’ Indeed, implementation of the plan would turn Beit Hanina into one of the largest Jewish settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods.”
Renowned Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar also connects the Beit Hanina settlement plan to the recently-passed Nation-State Law, writing:
“The decision, announced with little fanfare, lays the foundation stone for the recently adopted nationality law, which anchors the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. For instance, it encourages Jewish-only communities and codifies the ‘national value’ of Jewish settlement in the homeland of the Jewish people. After all, what is more of a national value than Jewish settlement in Jerusalem, the city enshrined by the controversial legislation as the capital of Israel?”
“In the past few years, 55 to 65 percent of Palestinians have said that they believe that settlement construction has expanded so much that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible. On average, three-quarters of those who reach this conclusion shift to opposing the two-state solution, while a similar percentage of those who think the two-state solution remains feasible remain in favor of it. In other words, support for the two-state solution is strongly linked to perceptions of feasibility, and settlements are making it seem unfeasible.”
The full results of PSR’s latest poll can be found here.
- “Do Palestinians Still Support the Two-State Solution? Why Israeli Settlements Are the Greatest Obstacle to Peace” (Foreign Affairs)
- “For Israel, Khan al-Ahmar residents lack ‘good faith’ displayed by settlers” (+972 Mag)
- “How Oslo Accords Contributed to Israeli Occupation” (Ynet)
- “Israelis Can’t Escape Apartheid” (Haaretz)
- “25 Years On, Some Israeli Right-Wingers Ready to Declare Oslo Accords Dead” (The Times of Israel)
- “This BDS Movement Just Loves Israeli Settlers” (Haaretz)